In That Moment – Part 2

I watched silently as Judas left. He inched his way along the wall, quickly, but noiselessly as though he didn’t want anyone to realize that he was leaving. I didn’t know why. He had been acting very strange ever since he had been reprimanded for speaking out against the woman Mary. But tonight had been the worst. He was preoccupied with something…and seemingly terrified of the same thing. A thought flashed across my mind in a brief moment of disbelief and question: was he the betrayer?

“Peter.” My gaze swung around to meet His, Judas and his secret forgotten. He was talking to me, and that was all that mattered for that moment…for eternity. Ever since that day when He had looked at me and said, “Come, and follow me,” He had been all that mattered. It hadn’t been His words so much that drew me to do as He bade, to follow Him. It had been that look; that look in His eyes that pierced through my exterior and gazed at my soul; that look that in one brief second assessed me, and approved me; that look that shook me to the very center of being and still shook me today. This man was my Lord, my Master, but more than that: He was my best friend. And whenever He spoke my name, all thoughts, all cares and worries fled and I basked in His love.

“Yes, Master,” I said, my full attention on Him.

“Peter,” He said again and a look that resembled sorrow crept over His face. “The Enemy has sought permission to test you: to sift you as wheat. But I have prayed for you, that your faith will not fail,” His voice seemed to gain strength as He said this and He leaned in my direction, His eyes focused directly on me. When He spoke this time, His voice was so soft, I could barely hear Him. “And when you have come through it, I want you to encourage your brothers,” with this His eyes swept around the table at the other disciples. I couldn’t really take in His final words, though. My mind was reeling with His first statement. I was going to be sifted like wheat? Did He think there was some chaff in me that still needed to be blown away? Yes, I had my faults, but this sounded serious. Then in the most horrifying moment of my life a thought crossed my mind that I could not bare to even allow to remain: was I to be the betrayer? No! I would not even consider it.

“Master,” I tried to keep my voice from trembling, which was hard when I had so many emotions raging inside of me, “I am ready to go anywhere with you: even to prison: even to death.” At this He smiled at me, a slow, sad, companionate smile. It was the smile that told me He knew something I didn’t know…and that it was something I would not like. It was the smile that said I was going to fail, and yet He loved me, would love me unconditionally no matter what I did. It was a smile I had seen often, and never wanted to see again.

“Peter,” He said. “I tell you this truly: before the cock crows tomorrow morning, you will deny me three times.” With this, the conversation ended. He sat back, taking those piercing eyes off of me, removing His warm smile from falling on me, and leaving me shivering and cold in my seat with only my roiling and sickened thoughts to keep me company. Denial? That was almost worse than being the betrayer. How could I deny this man? After being with Him these past years; after hearing Him speak His sermons that would make the boldest of men tremble; after seeing Him play with and talk to the little children in His gentle way; after seeing His miracles; after hearing Him say again and again that He was the Son of God; after all this, how could I deny knowing Him. Three times I tried to reject His statement, but each time just as I worked up the words to say, He would look at me with that look of His, and for some reason I couldn’t get the words out. I looked at my food. Suddenly, I wasn’t hungry anymore.

 

The cool night air did much to refresh me. I breathed deeply of the fresh, green smell, closing my eyes and lifting my face towards the gentle breeze. Slowly my mind slowed, my churning thoughts receded like the waves at the end of the storm. The smells, the sounds, the very feel of the Garden of Gethsemane was intoxicating and had a numbing effect on all my cares and worries. He came here a lot, and every time I joined Him, I could understand why. It was so peaceful, so quiet and removed from everything.

He was standing, gazing up towards heaven with a strange look on His face. He looked distraught, and at the same time, almost peaceful. We all kept glancing at Him, then at each other. We knew He was going to say something, somehow knew it was going to be important. At last He spoke. His eyes still fixed on the stars above He said slowly, confidently, and thoughtfully,

“Tonight, all of you will be offended because of me. For it has been written that if you kill the shepherd, the sheep will scatter.” He then looked down. He looked at each one of us, but finally His gaze rested on me. “But, then,” He continued with a small smile on His face, “then, when I rise again, I will go before you in Galilee.” I stared at Him in disbelief. Finally, the words I had wanted to say while we ate sprang to my mouth,

“Master,” I stepped towards Him and spoke in a low tone, “even if all of these others are offended because of you,” I jerked my head in the direction of the other disciples, and fixed my eyes on His, “I will never be offended.” I felt proud of myself. I had gotten the words out; I had shown Him where I stood. He was my Lord and Master, and always would be. Then my gaze wavered, my confidence shook and fell. He was looking at me again, looking at me with that same sad, knowing smile that spoke of hidden information and unconditional love. I had to drop my eyes. I stepped back. As He started speaking I shook my head, wanting to plug my ears, trying not to let the tears that threatened come,

“You will deny me three times, before the cock crows.” No, it couldn’t be. Twice He had said it now, but I still refused to believe it was true.

“I will die with you, Lord,” my voice trembled and my heart broke, “but I will never deny you.” The protest sounded weak, even to my own ears. I heard the other disciples echo this phrase, their voices strong, certain. Of course it was easy for them. He had not told them that they would deny Him; He had only told me. But I was determined to not allow this to come true. He told the other disciples to wait for Him, then He called John, James, and myself to follow Him further. I followed with a heavy heart. After a few minutes, His steps began to slow. It looked like it was huge effort for Him to move at all. He kept moving slower, and slower, until He came to a stop by a small grove of trees.

.           “My soul is sorrowful.” His voice was quiet and I could hear the grief. “Sorrowful…” He repeated, “even unto death. Wait for me here. Watch with me. I will go over there and pray.” He started off slowly. I watched Him until He fell on His knees, then I turned to see James and John staring at me. I knew what they were thinking.

“Don’t worry, Peter,” John told me. I ignored his comment. Normally I would have appreciated his encouragement. Aside from Him, John was the best friend I had, closer than even my own brother. Tonight was different, though; I just wanted to be left alone. I sat on the ground, facing Him, and my back to them. I picked up an olive that had fallen on the ground, rolled it between my fingers, then threw it. I watched Him for a long time, but then my eyes started to grow heavy. My raging emotions had calmed to leave a void that was quickly filled with exhaustion. Slowly I lowered myself until I was lying on the ground. I tried to watch Him, tried to pray, but…

“Peter,” my eyes snapped open and my whole body jerked in surprise. I sat up and looked at Him. A quick glance behind me showed that James and John were sleeping as well. “Could you not watch and pray for one hour?” His look was almost pained, and I wondered how many more times in one night I would manage to fail Him.

“I’m sorry, Master,” I said.

“Watch, and pray so that you will not enter into temptation,” He said. Then He bent and put His hand on my shoulder. “I know the spirit is willing, but the flesh is weak.” He smiled gently, then turned to go back to His place of prayer. I sat up and started praying, but the next thing I remember is the sound many feet trampling on the earth. I scrambled to my feet and rushed to His side. A band of officers were coming…coming to take Him. My heart was sickened by what I saw: Judas was leading them. His face was emotionless, and his eyes cold. Judas was the betrayer. In disgust I watched as Judas kissed Him on the cheeks. My hand moved to the hilt of my sword seemingly on its own. They were speaking to Him now, but I couldn’t make out the words. My anger was boiling inside of me, my heart pounded and I heard a rushing sound in my ears. No more was I thinking about my own denial that He had said was sure to come, or about my misery at that accusation. All I could focus on was that Judas, one that He had called His own, one that had been a part of us had betrayed Him: my Lord, my Master, my Friend. For a moment I couldn’t seem to see anything. Anger and hatred swirled in my head in a dizzying confusion. I pulled my sword halfway out: I wanted to thrust it into that snake, but when I looked around, I couldn’t see him. Finally, I caught a glimpse. He was moving away from the crowd, and it was good for him that he did! My emotions still burning with hot rage I turned back toward Him. That’s when I saw him: Malchus. A sniveling little coward of a high priest’s servant. He had grabbed the arm of my Master and was twisting it up behind His back. How dare he touch Him! He had no right! In a blinding flash of fury I drew my sword and struck. I heard him scream, somewhere in the distance it seemed, and in satisfaction I watched as his ear fell to the ground. Both his hands went up to grab at the gaping, bloody wound where his ear once was. He screamed again and I smiled. My anger somewhat satisfied, I turned, only to see a look of reproof on His face.

“Peter,” He said sternly. “Put your sword back in its sheath. Shall I not drink the cup that has been given to me by my Father?” Shocked at His words, I watched in utter astonishment as he picked up the severed ear and placed it back in its proper place. The flow of blood stopped, the flesh merged back as if it had never been damaged. There was a moment, one brief heartbeat, where none moved, no one spoke. Time stood still as all around gaped at the miracle in awe and slight fear. Then they started to lead Him off, but I couldn’t seem to move. My anger had burned down like the wick of a candle and had gone completely out. I stood completely still, staring as I watched Him walk away, slowly, as though He carried a heavy burden. I had done it again: I had disappointed Him. My thoughts tumbled and rolled, then seemed to vanish and I could not think anything. John was the first behind Him: that was supposed to be me. I watched as John turned and caught sight of me. He stared at me for a moment, then reached his hand out in my direction.

“Peter,” he called. That voice jarred me into movement. Slowly I took one step, then another, then a third: but I was moving backwards, away from Him, away in the other direction. After I took my third step back, I turned and fled. My feet pounded on the hard earth, widening the gap between Him and me. My legs churned and I seemed to have no control over my movements. But then, suddenly, I saw in my mind His smile: His smile of unconditional love. And I stopped. Slowly I turned. I could still see Him in the distance, little more than a spot, He seemed, but in my mind I could see every detail of His face. My breath came in ragged gasps. Slowly I took a step back in the direction from which I had come. I took another. Then a third. But this time I didn’t run. This time I continued to move slowly. I watched and followed from a distance. I had to see where they were taking Him, and what they were going to do with Him, but only from a distance. I moved just quickly enough that the space between us did not get any greater. I watched as one by one, the other disciples turned and fled. I watched as only John followed on. I watched as his movements grew slower and slower, until he too veered off in a different direction. I was the last one: the only one to follow. “Come, follow Me,” I heard His voice far in the back of my mind and ages past. I will follow You, Master, I thought as I took one slow, heavy step after another. I will always follow You.

 

            I stood in the courtyard of the high priest’s house. That’s where they had taken Him; that’s where I would wait for Him. I would have followed Him into the lion’s den itself, but it was a marvel I was even allowed entrance to the courtyard. If it hadn’t been for John, I would have been stopped at the gates. He had reappeared just in time to keep me from knocking a few heads together or picking up where I had left off in the garden. A lowly fisherman, my demand for entrance had been met with sneers that made my blood boil. Though John’s profession was the same as my own, his father had friends in high places. A few well-placed words allowed him to follow my Master inside, and gave me the opportunity to join the servants in the courtyard without objection. Anger and jealousy over John’s proximity and my distance steamed, but it was better than being flogged and dragged to some prison.

An uncharacteristically cold wind was blowing, an ominous wind that seemed to foretell of evil that was coming. I wrapped my arms around me, rubbing my hands briskly up and down them. I kept glancing at the door. They had been in there for a while, and the night was beginning to fade into morning dusk. I glanced over and saw that some of the servants had a fire. I edged my way over and sat down amongst them. A few cast curious glances in my direction, but I stayed at the edge of the fire’s light, so they didn’t ask questions. There was a little maid girl there, who couldn’t have been more than thirteen years of age. She kept looking over her shoulder at me and finally she rose and walked in my direction. As she neared, her face took on a look of assuredness.

“Yes,” she said, though I do not know to whom. “I was right. You are one of the ones that was with Him.” Suddenly more than a few eyes were on me.

“I do not know what you are talking about,” I mumbled. I rose and walked away from the fire. Again I looked at the door. Where was He? I had not been away from the fire for more than a moment when another servant man entered the court. He gave me a strange look, then approached me.

“You,” he pointed his finger at me in an accusatory manner. “You are one of them. You were with Him.”

“Man,” I growled between my teeth. “I am not.” I spun on my heel and moved closer to the door. I had had about enough of this. What could be taking them so long? I was desperate to see Him, to make sure that He was all right. I would slice off ten thousand ears if it meant I could see Him again.

“You are a Galilean,” a voice cut into my thoughts. The woman turned to her companions. “This fellow was with Him.” I spun and spat a curse on the ground.

“I do not know what you are talking about!” I shouted angrily. All of a sudden I heard the most sickening sound of my life. It was a cock, crowing for all he was worth at the new sun that was lazily rising into the sky. In that moment, I remembered what I had somehow managed to forget throughout the long, horror-filled night. “You will deny me three times, before the cock crows.” As the cock crowed for the second time, I turned and there He stood. He looked me straight in the eye…and He smiled. In that moment, my heart broke. I tore my gaze from Him, hoping I would never have to face Him again. I ran from the courtyard, my legs moving as fast as I could make them. I don’t know how far I ran, or when I stopped, but finally my legs gave out. I fell to the ground, and the tears streamed down my face, soaking into the hard dirt. Never in my life had I been so ashamed. I had denied knowing the One man who meant more than anyone else to me. I had denied my best friend, and I wondered how He could ever forgive me. Yet in that moment, that miserable moment I knew, somehow, that He already had.

~ S.D. Bullard

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~ by sdbullard on April 20, 2014.

2 Responses to “In That Moment – Part 2”

  1. That was amazing. I couldn’t stop reading. Loved it. Francine Rivers another favorite author reminds me of you. Thank you for my own personal Easter message

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